With states fining people thousands of dollars for non-compliance with pandemic travel restrictions, riders are understandably concerned about copping a fine for going on even a short ride.
Queensland State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski explains how they will approach the issue:
Where police will take action is if there are blatant or wilful breaches happening in the community.
It will then be up to riders to challenge the fine in court.
In this new “police state” of ours, riders could be fined for a short ride around their neighbourhood to “clear the cobwebs”, get a bit of sunshine and some light exercise, even if they stay within all health guidelines and social distancing measures.
At the moment there is a bunch of rules, suggestions and directives from health departments, politicians and police.
They don’t match and they vary from state to state. They are so confusing! (Click here to take our rider survey on pandemic restriction rules.)
What’s the difference and which do we obey?
In the end, it’s the police who issue the fines.
Police have reasserted that ignorance is never a defence, but surely it is in this case of hastily drafted rules that change so quickly and are contradictory.
So we asked Brisbane barrister and motorcyclist Levente Jurth for his opinion.
“Your questions are understandable, but you’ve asked for answers to hundreds, if not thousands, of variables, many of which continue to change on a daily basis,” he says.
“Obviously, I can’t respond to that.
“As a broad overview, I think the position is this: if someone is obviously doing the wrong thing and is being deliberately disobedient, then they will be punished if they get caught.
“On the other hand, anyone who is conscientiously trying to do the right thing and is doing their best to act in compliance with the applicable directives will likely be treated with some flexibility (eg. a warning), even if they have technically contravened a specific rule.”
If the matter does go to court, it could be some time until it is heard as courts are effectively closed for all but serious matters during the pandemic.
Brisbane lawyer, Andrew Evans has suggested that if anyone was fined for going for a ride in the last week or so because they believed it was permitted based on the letter from the ministers office or the ABC report then they might try writing to the officer in charge of the station that issued the fine and explain that they genuinely believed what they were allowed to go riding.
“The OIC does have some discretion to withdraw infringements and may decide it’s the right thing to do,” he says.
“There’s no guarantee that they will and you might still have to pay the fine or contest it in court but I suggest this would be your best action in the first instance.”